Last week, the Eagles and Packers had the first byes of the 2016 season. (Check out that link to get a sense of what you can expect from them in Week 5!) This week, four more squads get some time off: Jacksonville, Seattle, New Orleans, and Kansas City. The Jags, Seahawks, and Saints all enter the bye coming off of a win; the Chiefs, on the other hand, are looking to regroup from a drubbing in Pittsburgh.
What should we expect from this quartet when they get back on the field?
The Jags (1-4 SU, 1-2-1 ATS) finally got in the win column (both SU and ATS) in Week 4 by edging Indianapolis in London, 30-27. Despite their record, the Jags have only played one truly awful game, a 38-14 shellacking at the hands of San Diego in Week 2. Other than that, they lost a tight home game to Green Bay in Week 1 (27-23) and another close one at home to Baltimore in Week 3 (19-17).
The defense is finally showing some signs of improvement, but it isn’t really translating to the stat sheet. Jacksonville is allowing 27.8 points per game. Blake Bortles hasn’t progressed any in his third season and the offense has suffered for it so far, scoring a mediocre 21 points per game.
Coach Gus Bradley is 1-2 following a bye. Last year, the Jags fell at home to the Jets, 28-23.
Jacksonville has winnable games at Chicago (Week 6) and at Tennessee (Week 8) coming up after the bye. Be cautious of the Jags on the road, though. They haven’t had a winning ATS road record since 2012.
Despite quarterback Russell Wilson playing injured and the offense sputtering for the first couple of weeks, Seattle is 3-1 (2-2 ATS). The ‘Hawks beat Miami 12-10 (home) to start the year, fell to the Rams 9-3 (road), and then rolled San Francisco 37-18 (home) and the Jets 27-17 (road).
The defense is still lights-out, sitting third in the NFL in scoring (13.5 PPG), while the offense is finally clicking – especially the passing game – like it did to finish last year.
Speaking of last year, the Seahawks fell to Arizona, 39-32, after their regular season bye, dropping their record to 3-3 under Pete Carroll. Two serious challenges await Seattle when they return to the field. First, they host high-powered Atlanta, and then they travel to desperate Arizona with the Cardinals coming off of a bye.
The Seahawks are 3-1 even though Wilson has been limited and their defense has managed only four takeaways. I’d bet Wilson is going to be better after a week of rest and the defense, which has been very good, is going to start turning people over, too. Seattle is a bet-on team in the short term.
Trailing by two touchdowns with five minutes to go, it appeared the Saint (1-3, 2-2 ATS) would lose at San Diego on Sunday and drop to 0-4. Instead, they found a way (to let the Chargers hand them the game) and now enter the bye with a glimmer of hope.
Of their four games, three have been tossups. New Orleans lost by a point to the Raiders in Week 1 (35-34 home), fell by a field goal to the Giants in Week 2 (16-13 road), but got pasted 45-32 (home) by Atlanta in Week 3.
The Saints, as usual, are one of the top offensive teams in the NFL. Just like last year, they have the worst defense in the league (32.5 points a game, 32nd).
The Saints are 5-4 after a bye under Sean Payton but have lost two straight: 24-6 against Houston last year, and 24-23 to the Lions in 2014. Difficult home games against Carolina and Seattle sandwich a road test at Kansas City when New Orleans returns to action. It has been a few years since the SuperDome was the toughest place in the league to play, and unless New Orleans finds a way to tighten up its defense, they are going to continue to be in shootouts.
There’s no reason to think the defense is going to improve with rest. The unit just doesn’t have the horses, especially with top CB Delvin Breaux sidelined with a broken leg. Opponents will continue to make more stops and the Saints will continue to rack up the Ls.
The Chiefs (2-2, 1-3 ATS) are 2-0 at home with wins over San Diego and the Jets, and 0-2 on the road with setbacks at Houston and Pittsburgh. Their offense is below average but not awful, ranking 19th in passing, 23rd on the ground, and 21st in scoring (20.8 points a game). The defense (23 PPG) has been up-and-down, getting torched for 27 points by the Chargers and 43 by the Steelers, while leading the NFL with ten takeaways. (Granted, six of those were gifted by Ryan Fitzpatrick). The Chiefs allow 23 points a game.
The Chiefs alternate road and home games for six straight weeks when they return to action. First up is a tough road game at Oakland. Then they travel to the Bayou for a duel with the Saints. Coach Andy Reid was 10-4 as the Eagles head man following a bye and is 2-1 with the Chiefs. Last year, KC beat eventual Super Bowl champion Denver, 29-13.
Reid is not the most tolerant coach, and he won’t stand for the fumbling that has taken place thus far (seven turnovers). I expect the Chiefs to cut down on mistakes, continue to force turnovers, and play well after their bye. Since coming to Kansas City, the Chiefs are slightly over .500 against the spread. Their chances of covering immediately following the bye are rather high.
Photo credit: Philip Robertson [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.
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